In an attempt to address the country’s economic reliance upon non-renewable energy resources, the UAE has embarked upon an ambitious programme to expand tertiary education and create a more skilled work force. Particular emphasis has been placed upon scientific and technical education, especially engineering. However, examination of the curricula at the country’s top engineering schools modelled upon similar programs in the US shows a comparative de-emphasis of liberal arts courses designed to encourage creativity, innovation and a greater understanding of the social contexts in which engineering knowledge is applied. This paper investigates this discrepancy through an analysis of the factors that shape UAE society in general and the tertiary education sector in particular. It finds that, in addition to the usual difficulties of successfully implementing a liberal arts programme in a knowledge community characterised by a techno-centric discourse, the absence of humanities and social science courses is attributable to a broad range of socio-economic, political and cultural factors peculiar to the UAE. The cumulative effect of these influences is to create a self-perpetuating paradox where the same imperatives that make the development of a skilled work force a long-term economic necessity also impede its realisation.
|Keywords:||Engineering, Liberal Arts, Humanities, Curricula, Culture|
Assistant Professor, Department Head, Humanities and Social Sciences, The Petroleum Institute, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
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